As we get closer to the festive season it can be difficult to keep employees engaged and motivated at work. Distractions such as Christmas celebrations, end of year events, festivals, family commitments and holiday planning often lead to employees losing focus during the final weeks of the year.

During this time employers may notice that their people are checking out mentally from their work, taking longer lunch breaks and struggling to find the extra oomph to finish off projects before the year ends.

Rather than getting frustrated at your team, the best approach is to have a few key motivation strategies in place to keep your people focused and on track to finish the year strong and ready to tackle the year ahead.

A great place to start is by exploring Daniel Pink’s motivation theory and his take on intrinsic motivation.

Pink argues that the traditional extrinsic “carrot and stick” motivation (do well and you’ll get a reward but do poorly and you’ll be punished) are becoming outdated and do not address the needs of the creative and innovative workplaces of the 21st century.

In contrast intrinsic motivation, when people are self-motivated because they are given the freedom to do the work they enjoy, is becoming increasingly popular in modern workplaces. In these work environments, innovation and creativity are vital and people thrive by doing the work that they are truly passionate about.

To build an intrinsically motivated team, Pink proposes focussing on three key factors: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.


Autonomy is the desire to direct and lead our own lives. To be fully motivated you must be able to control what you do, when you do it and who you do it with.  According to Pink if managers want to see their employees more engaged in what they’re doing, then allowing employees autonomy (self-direction) is a better approach to take.

Flexible working practices is a great example of allowing employees to have more autonomy. For instance, flexible work hours or providing the technology, equipment, and freedom for employees to work from home allows personnel to experience a stronger sense of autonomy.


Mastery is the desire to continually improve at something that matters and allowing employees to enjoy a sense of progress at work contributes to their inner drive. If you’re motivated by mastery, you’ll likely see your potential as being unlimited.

If people feel they are not moving forward or improving, then interest falls, and people give up more quicky. By contrast, a lack of opportunity at work for self-improvement or personal and professional development is liable to make employees bored and demotivated.

The technique according to Pink is to suggest tasks that suit the persons capacity, but also give them space and support to promote improvement and growth. Pink calls these tasks “Goldilocks tasks” which are not “too hot or too cold”. Goldilocks tasks push employees out of their comfort zones and allow them to stretch themselves and develop their skills and experience.


The third and final intrinsic motivation factor is purpose. Pinks describes purpose as the desire to do things in service of something that is larger than ourselves, and that people intrinsically want to do things that matter. For instance, entrepreneurs are often intrinsically motivated to make a difference rather than aiming for maximising sales and profit.

A key part of adding purpose to work is to ensure that the mission, values, and goals of the business are communicated to employees. It’s important for employees to get a better understanding and appreciation of their work and role and how it fits into what the business is about and trying to achieve. People may become disengaged and demotivated at work if they don’t understand or can’t invest in the bigger picture.

Employees who find purpose in the work they do unlock the highest level of motivational potential.

Introducing Change

In many organisations, introducing Pinks intrinsic motivation model and developing autonomy, mastery and purpose would require a change in culture. So, it’s important to think how this framework fits with your businesses structure before introducing it.

There are however a few steps you can take now to help encourage your team to become more intrinsically motivated before the end of the year:

1. Develop “Goldilocks Tasks” and Goals

Allow individuals to be involved in setting their own goals. People are more engaged with their work when they’re pursuing goals that they have helped to create.

If you’re a manager or leader, work with your team and set goals that you would collectively like to hit before the year ends and they go on leave. Consider Pinks “Goldilocks Tasks” and develop goals that are achievable but challenging enough to keep them engaged and on track.

2. Steps to give up control (micro-managing)

Christmas can be a stressful time for many, especially with the current Covid restrictions and it’s important for people to feel as though they have someone they can talk to. Your leaders need to be approachable and open to employees. If you’re a manager have open door hours and set aside time that your team can come and talk to you about any issues either work related or personal without a fear of judgement.

Frequent conversations are important to understand employee expectations and grievances. Listening and being present creates an environment that facilitates better productivity.

Another tip is to reduce controlling language, for example instead of saying “you must” or “you should” use phrases such as “you could”, “consider doing” or “think about doing”. This language could be useful when discussing your teams’ goals.

3. Promote collaboration

Like most organisations your team will have an array of skills to offer, which can be put to use when you encourage your people to share their skills and work collaboratively.

Think of ways your team can work together when developing those end of year “Goldilocks tasks” as part of your wider learning culture. Encouraging and promoting teamwork boosts productivity.

4. Lead by example

Actions begin at the top level. Your businesses leadership team must take the initiative and encourage employee motivation.

Have senior leaders that reflect your companies values and what you want to see in your employees. When leaders set a good example and lead from the top, employees are sure to follow.

5. Offer self-development opportunities

Ensuring your people can grow and develop is important especially when it comes to job fulfilment, and according to Danial Pink, it’s crucial for long-term motivation.

Growth can either occur internally by allowing team members to up-skill on the job or take an extra step and send your employees to paid workshops and or training courses.

For instance, a Health and Wellness or Leadership and Culture workshop is a great option, your team will leave feeling reinvigorated and motivated to finish the year strong and ready to kick start the new year.

Whilst we have provided a few quick fixes to help your team become more intrinsically motivated and on track to end of the year; it can be challenging to establish change into an organisation, especially when it comes to your companies’ culture.

If you require assistance or would like to talk to a People and Culture expert, book a consult with our team and take your organisations culture to the next level. Our People and Culture professionals work with you to understand what needs to change and will create a customised plan for your organisation to assist you in making it happen.

Let's Talk!

Join our email list